The Life & Times of Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic Dome: A Documentary

In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, the vision­ary inven­tor Buck­min­ster Fuller start­ed look­ing for ways to improve human shel­ter by:

  • Apply­ing mod­ern tech­no­log­i­cal know-how to shel­ter con­struc­tion.
  • Mak­ing shel­ter more com­fort­able and effi­cient.
  • Mak­ing shel­ter more eco­nom­i­cal­ly avail­able to a greater num­ber of peo­ple.

And what he came up with (read more here) was the “geo­des­ic” dome.” This dome held appeal for two main rea­sons: 1.) its sur­face would be “omni­tri­an­gu­lat­ed,” mean­ing built out of small tri­an­gles, which would give the over­all struc­ture unpar­al­leled strength. And 2.) domes by their very nature enclose the great­est vol­ume for the least sur­face area, which makes them very effi­cient.

Fuller devel­oped the math­e­mat­ics for the geo­des­ic dome and helped make it an archi­tec­tur­al real­i­ty. You can find instances where these domes served as audi­to­ri­ums, weath­er obser­va­to­ries, and stor­age facil­i­ties in the US and Cana­da. And then above, you watch a doc­u­men­tary called A Nec­es­sary Ruin: The Sto­ry of Buck­min­ster Fuller and the Union Tank Car DomeShot by Evan Math­er in 2010, the doc­u­men­tary tells the sto­ry of the dome built in Baton Rouge, LA in 1958. At 384 feet in diam­e­ter, the Union Tank Car Dome was the world’s largest free-span struc­ture then in exis­tence. Math­er’s doc­u­men­tary includes ” inter­views with archi­tects, engi­neers, preser­va­tion­ists, media, and artists; ani­mat­ed sequences demon­strat­ing the oper­a­tion of the facil­i­ty; and hun­dreds of rare pho­tographs and video seg­ments tak­en dur­ing the dome’s con­struc­tion, decline, and demo­li­tion.” It was fund­ed by a grant from the Gra­ham Foun­da­tion for Advanced Stud­ies in the Fine Arts, and you can now find it our col­lec­tion of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Vis­it for more info on Math­er’s film and/or to pur­chase the DVD.

Relat­ed Con­tent

Every­thing I Know: 42 Hours of Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Vision­ary Lec­tures Free Online (1975)

Watch an Ani­mat­ed Buck­min­ster Fuller Tell Studs Terkel All About “the Geo­des­ic Life”

Bet­ter Liv­ing Through Buck­min­ster Fuller’s Utopi­an Designs: Revis­it the Dymax­ion Car, House, and Map

Bertrand Rus­sell & Buck­min­ster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More

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  • Katrina Howard Fairley says:

    Evan Math­er’s video neglects one huge ERROR! TC Howard of Syn­er­get­ics, Inc designed the Union Tank Car Dome along with Dr. ME Uyanik, struc­tur­al engi­neer. The dome was a tri­a­con domed truss. Buck­min­ster Fuller did not design this dome. Fuller was co-own­er of Syn­er­get­ics, Inc and held the patent to geo­des­ic dome geom­e­try. Syn­er­get­ics, Inc was locat­ed in Raleigh, NC. TC Howard is both a licensed archi­tect and a licensed engi­neer. Bucky Fuller was nei­ther an archi­tect nor an engi­neer. The Union Tank Car Dome was the largest clear-span dome in the world in 1958 at 384′.- Syn­er­get­ics, Inc spokesman and TC Howard’s daugh­ter

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